The state Medical Examining Board issued a $5,000 fine and a reprimand to an orthopedic surgeon who operated on the wrong knee of a patient in 2018 and temporarily suspended the medical license of a Colchester physician assistant who is accused of falsifying documents and excessively using alcohol and marijuana.
Dr. Christopher Betz, who works at Starling Physicians, failed to follow the pre-incision protocol and failed to independently verify which knee was the site of the operation prior a procedure that took place at Bristol Hospital on Sept. 14, 2018, according to state Department of Public Health (DPH) documents.
The error wasn’t reported by DPH’s Facility Licensing and Investigations Section (FLIS) to its Practitioner Licensing and Investigations Unit, which investigates complaints against physicians, for the board until July 19, 2019 after Bristol Hospital was the subject of an unannounced inspection by federal health authorities, documents said. Bristol Health reported the medical error as an adverse event on Sept. 21, 2018 to FLIS.
According to a corrective plan based on the federal inspection, Betz also failed to document that he had operated on the wrong knee and failed to note that after he did discover the error, he gave the patient a cortisone shot in the knee that was originally slated for surgery.
Betz has since taken a course in preventing medical errors and near misses in surgery, DPH officials said. Under the discipline approved by the board Tuesday, Betz was fined $5,000 and his license to practice medicine was reprimanded.
In other action, the board temporarily suspended the medical license of Derek Donovan, a physician assistant, after a DPH investigation revealed he had used alcohol and marijuana excessively in the past few years, documents said.
Donovan is also accused of falsifying medical records and intentionally making false written statements provided to DPH staff from June to December 2021, documents said. Donovan also has had an emotional disorder or mental illness since April 2021, DPH officials said.
If the board had not granted the summary suspension, Donovan would have been allowed to continue to practice until a formal consent order with discipline was granted. A panel of three board members will hold a hearing on the allegations on Feb. 25. Following the hearing, the DPH will work with Donovan to determine a resolution that will likely include discipline, officials said.
This story was updated from a previous version to add context on reporting by Bristol Health to DPH.